Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Doctor Who’s 50th Episode

You, dear single solitary reader, know that I like Doctor bloody Who. I’ve done posts on the subject of the show, and once upon a time, this blog had a weekly vent as to how the ongoing series was doing.

Over time it trickled to a stop. Why was that? Was it really that I didn’t have enough time? Or was it the episodes that changed? The writing, perhaps?

Now we get to it. Some of the time, the writing and the episodes are pretty good. They do a good job of keeping me interested in the franchise as a whole. Rarely (these days), the episodes are brilliant and they match the energy and acting skills of Matt Smith, and are worthy of his time. I’m not saying he’s a better actor than David Tennant, or any of the other Doctors. I’m saying the episodes have been lacking, and he’s been wasted. Put him up against David Tennant and I guarantee you would find reasons for calling each of them better at some point. Strengths and weaknesses, swings and roundabouts, then.

Which brings us to the 50th anniversary episode, ‘The Day of the Doctor’. Those who haven’t seen it, look away now.

Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!

Where do we start? Let’s start with something like 10.6 million people watching the episode live on Saturday, 23rd November. It was the same day that it first aired, albeit 50 years before, which was why half of us were there. It started well - the original opening from 1963 played and it all seemed fab. Then we get Billy Piper back as Rose - except she’s not. She’s just the voice of the WMD of the plot (that will seem ironic, in that ‘Rose Tyler’ is telling the Doctor to have a conscience, when in fact the Doctor that would have listened to her could neither see nor hear her). The actress is brought back sheerly because of her face. She’s not Rose, she’s a GUI for John Hurt’s use. Billie Piper is not a poor actress and I was happy to see her again - she played the part well enough for me to realise in the first few moments that she wasn’t Rose at all.

Then in comes John Hurt as ‘The War Doctor’. When I went to the official celebration on Sunday 24th November in the ExCel, London, I got to hear Steven Moffat’s reaction to the fans and the episode - and hear his reasoning behind it. And a few things grated. First, there was his idea that we shouldn’t be sticking to the whole ‘silly’ 12 regenerations and out, idea. Second, that he felt Tom Baker’s appearance at the end was just for fun and ‘for the fans’. Then there was his assertion that John Hurt’s ‘War Doctor’ doesn’t count as a ‘Doctor’ because he didn’t apply that name to himself - he considered himself not a Doctor at all, because he was apparently fighting in a war, not healing or fixing things.

BOLLOCKS, Mr Moffat. He’s ‘the War Doctor’. Three words, one of which is ‘Doctor’. This whole thing about his real name, this whole side trip to hype DW up to the point where it’s something more mythical and fantastic that it is, just so you can burn it down by eradicating all the mystery, is ridiculous. When you’re a child and you’re making up stories, and you escalate it more and more but then realise that you can’t finish it because you just can’t pull out that one aspect that would top everything and be mind-blowing and genius because THERE IS NOTHING IN THE STORY TO DO THAT - that’s where Moffat is, most days, I’m sure.

Getting back to John Hurt, Moffat seems to regard him as the 9th Doctor. I have no issue with that. The little webisode that was released (not very fairly, considering some people won’t have seen it before the 50th) showed me that Paul McGann - who SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE WAR DOCTOR IN THE ANNIVERSARY EPISODE - regenerated into John Hurt. I saw it. He had a new face, a new body. What wasn’t clear was whether he started as John Hurt with 12 new regenerations (seeing as the elixir he drank supposedly brought him back to life - or gave him new life?). I’d like to think… no. Because John Hurt was the 9th Doctor. Sorry, 9, 10 and 11 - you’ve all been bumped along one. Which makes Peter Capaldi the 13th Doctor, and therefore the last.

Oh don’t look at me like that. Yes, I believe there should be 12 regenerations, otherwise the programme would go on and on until it turned into Smallville, A.K.A. the series that wouldn’t die. Have a spin-off all about Romana (seeing as it was never confirmed or even mentioned where she was during this ‘Time War’). Have a spin-off with the Doctor’s Daughter. Have a spin-off about Donna Noble. Have a spin-off about Martha Jones and Mickey Smith working for U.N.I.T. Bring back Torchwood, but with more Gallifreyans in it. I don’t care - but don’t piss about with the 12 regenerations theory, just so Moffat can keep on doling out substandard shite and passing it off as ‘something the fans will love’.

And while we’re on that subject, pack it in, Moffat. Making shit up and then trying to justify it afterwards when people point out how it made no sense is no way to run a series. Bringing out a Sherlock trailer the day after DW airs, just to distract us with something else shiny, does not work. Sherlock is a completely different animal, and it bears no relation to the whole furore surrounding DW right now.

When I was at the ExCel in London on Sunday to hear the panels and see the fallout from ‘The Day of the Doctor’. I really enjoyed listening to everyone - but I wanted to punch Moffat. Everything out of his mouth made me want to stand up and ask him why, or how, but most especially WHY THE BLOODY HELL HE INCLUDED TOM BAKER AT THE END, WHEN IT MADE NO SENSE. I’m all for including Doctors, but when one of them is significantly aged more than when he was dying and regenerated, how can he be there like that? And don't go ‘wibbly wobbly, timey wimey’, Moffat, because that’s just pathetic. Explain it. Don’t expect that we’ll be so dazzled by a JJ Abrams-bomb that we’ll blindly find it hilarious and a ‘touching’ end to a so-so episode. It was stupid, and it stuck out like a sore thumb. I really do think Moffat just whacks this stuff in there as in-jokes and ‘look at me, I can bring you all this’, when in fact it doesn’t make sense and it shouldn’t be there. It’s not big and it’s not clever, Moffat. It just invokes Fridge Logic and enrages fans.

Tom Baker could have been just a curator. He could have been someone a little bit eccentric who the Doctor met and liked. But implying so heavily that he was the Doctor? Bollocks. Wrong. Annoyingly so.

In short, I did enjoy a lot of the episode. It’s always good to see David Tennant as the Doctor, and this was no exception. I liked how they got along. I liked the door argument, I liked how they brought in other Doctors, and that we saw more of Gallifrey (and, by the by, how the head Gallifreyan said he saw ‘all 13’ Doctors at the end in the TARDISes). There was a lot to like. But there were points where Moffat, again, brought his own indulgence into it. Forget Russell T. Davies' efforts to squeeze in things he liked - Moffat does it like it’s owed to him. And I really, really despise that. I hope with Peter Capaldi coming in, the tone changes slightly, and we get good stories to really ground this new Doctor. After all, we now have a new Doctor and a companion whose back-story and Being Very Speyshall moment has passed. There is so much potential here for a fantastic series - and hopefully, Capaldi will stay for a few years.

More than anything, I hope Steven Moffat hands the show over to someone who isn’t all about the shiny things they can flash in our faces, in the hope that we won’t notice the plot holes and his failure to finish off a decent story.

Rant over. I need a cup of tea.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

1 comment:

Josef Alverkrans said...

Really though, the 12 regenerations rule has never been a particularly hard one. The Valeyard was said to fall "between the Doctors twelfth and final regenerations" Implying more just 12, furthermore the Dictor got Ruver Songs remaining regenerations in Lets Kill Hitler, so he has like another ten left.
Canon is always a very malleable thing. I (like you) would like to se a female doctor. But that possibility wasn't explicitly stated onscreen until the Doctors Wife. Untill that point, every gallifreyan we saw always regenerated within the same sex.

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